Interbike’14: Ale Bike Wear, Elite Trainers, Easton Wheels
With the World’s dust settling after days of rain in Spain, it time to crack open the tech vault once again with lots more from the floor in Vegas. Here’s a closer look at Ale Bike Wear’s top kits, Elite’s new Real Turbo Muin trainer, and Easton’s latest E100 carbon tubular wheels.
When we first talked to ALE BIKE WEAR a few months back, I’ll admit I was leary that this new brand had anything different to offer in the world of cycling kit. The last few years have seen some huge advances in fabric technology, pattern development, and a lot of smart thinking applied to a category that’s become increasingly crowded. The invention of the digital sublimation machine really lowered the barriers to entry and have allowed many low end brands to offer basic lycra cycling kit at prices that are too good to be true. (And you know how that usually turns out…)
Ale Bikewear’s ‘Bermuda’ in-line kit is part of their pro-level PR.R range which is used by Italian Team Bardiani. Note the hi-vis stitching – not even the pros get this stuff – unless they buy the in-line kit.
But after seeing and riding some test kits from this 100% Italian brand, they caught my attention and I was keen to see more on the floor in Vegas. The man behind the marketing and US distribution of the brand, or more accurately ‘in front’ of the brand is former pro rider Pietro Caucchioli (you might recognize the name from his newly launched bike brand DIVO that I rode at this summer’s Tour. As a World Tour pro for 10 years, and still a fit and active rider, Pietro knows his way around cycling kit, and has for years worked behind the scenes for numerous Italian brands testing and developing new products.
But launching an all new apparel line with a name know one’s heard of ain’t easy. Luckily the Ale brand (‘alé’ is a popular cheer used by fans to encourage riders) boasts some pretty nice technical features that qualify it as top shelf, but pricing that’s closer to mid-shelf. The range on show was fairly complete, with summer and winter lines now available to retailers, and more pieces in development. Three different levels of technical features and price points offered are the PR.R pro race kit, the Ultra in the mid-range and the more entry level Plus series.
Their pro level range is called PR.R, and can be found of the Team Bardiani CSF in all their green-fluo glory. It was also on display in a pretty cool blue/ yellow fluo ‘Bermuda’ design as part of their in-line collection. It uses a mix of fabrics placed where they’ll do the most good and tailored to an athletic cyclist’s physique, and is reasonably priced at US$150 for the jersey and $160 for the bibs.
The front & shoulders are a light perforated polyester blend designed to pull moisture away from the body and allow airflow through it. The arm bands are a higher compression stretch fabric, applied as a two-inch wide band that eliminates the need for a traditional style elastic, or silicone gripper (which doesn’t breath well). This lack of a thin pinch-point also allows for a small movement of the sleeve around the bicep that eliminates bunching or riding-up.
The same fabric is used across the bottom of the jersey at the belly, again in a two-inch wide band – but this time cut with a well thought out arc that allows the jersey to lay flat across the front in the natural riding position (unlike so many jerseys that ride-up and bunch across the gut.) The back, underarms and sides are another lightweight fabric that features a carbon weave to eliminate electrostatic energy.
Stitching is stylish flatlock throughout and sewn with a highly reflective strips along the main seam to up the safety factor while still looking like it belongs in the design. The whole jersey is very light too – I weighted a size Small at 117 grams vs 163 grams for another very popular brand’s standard race jersey – that’s almost 50 grams difference and the PR.R jersey is not flimsy.
The bibs are also impressive, again using a mix of fabrics to deliver a better fit and overall riding experience. The main panels are a higher compression lycra that we’ve come to expect in pro-level gear. I remember when I first started riding higher compression kits, and how strange it felt compared to what I was used to. Now I actually prefer the more compact feeling, to the point that looser fitting or lower compressions fabrics, no matter how well cut, just feel inferior to me – a subjective evaluation I’ll admit – but let’s see a show of hands on who agrees with me…
The back of the bib legs feature a cool vented panel of the carbon weave fabric (see that black thread?) that aids the airflow and adds some style as only Italians could.
The bibs straps look like lazer cut lycra with the very crisp and seamless edge, that lie flatter (and more comfortably) under the jersey and over a base layer or next to your skin – but in fact they’re actually woven to the finished size.. The mesh fabric that runs up the back between the straps adds some structure, but is very light and breathable, and also made of the carbon weave fabric to reduce electrostatic energy. Personally I’ve not noticed the electro-stuff, but I’m told the friction of certain lycras (where a jersey and bibs might rub together) can lead to build up of electrostatic charges. Shocking stuff.
Unlike almost every other brand these days, Ale actually makes their own chamois, and offer three levels of density across the line, and three levels of women’s chamois too. The interface that lies next to your skin is treated with an aloe vera wash that adds to its microbial properties, but most significantly, the stuff is super soft and I’ll confirm from personal experience it just feels good against the skin – it’s a very nice chamois. We’ve come a long way since leather chamois – anyone else remember those…?
The PR.R 2.0 line was on show, but still in development. It features died fabrics cut in stylish but functional panels, and is aimed at retailers looking to show an in-line brand that presents a much simpler take on cool.
For entry level riders and shops looking to offer some value priced kit, Ale offers the “Plus” line, and the “Classics Collection” with some vintage inspired graphics, everything still made in Italy, and prices around $215 for the jersey & bibs together – the cuts are roomier and fabrics are lighter on the compression. They have a big range of options for custom team kit as well, and would be worth a look for any of you wanting some higher end Italian made kit that pushes the style envelope just a little.
• See em online at AleBikeWear.com
ELITE Trainers have been a fave here at PEZ for years, and is a favorite in the pro peloton too as maybe the most recognized supplier of team water bottles. For 2014, they take what was their quietest & most realistic-feeling trainer – the Turbo Muin, and notch it up with the addition of power controls and connection to their robust My E-Training app that really expands the training experience & quality – now named the Real Turbo Muin trainer.
The “real” refers to its connection to Elite’s huge suite of real-world training videos, and ‘Muin’ refers to the wind in Italian.
As a direct mount trainer, rear wheel slippage has been removed from the equation, because in order to connect your bike to the Real Turbo Muin trainer …you gotta remove your rear wheel. Yep – you clamp the frame right to the trainer and every bit of pedaling force you create goes straight into the trainer. It comes with a freehub body for both Shimano & Sram (you’ll want to use your own cogset), and Campy conversion kits are also available as an extra.
Something else Elite is known for, at Interbike at least, is having two rather distracting ladies – Natasha and Jill (both featured in our Daily Distractions gallery over the years) – ride Elite trainers for 8 hours a day for 3 days at the show – that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 hours demo-ing trainers, answering questions, and generally creating a welcome distraction on the Show floor.
Natasha’s glossy nails, makeup, and confidence suggest more spokes-model than booth babe, and her favorite question at the show is: “Do you really ride bikes?” Indeed she does, and has been one of Elite’s demo riders for about 6 years, and got the job because they wanted real women riders to enhance the credibility of the trainers. Not having one available for test yet ourselves (it’s in the works), Natasha readily agreed to offer up her observations and answer my questions after the Show.
Right off the top, Natasha commented that this was the most realistic feeling trainer she’s ever used (she owns three trainers of different brands at home). That’s thanks to Elite’s use of the big 194mm diameter 6.9kg flywheel, their renowned fluid technology, and their own belt-drive system to create that quiet, smooth, real road-like feeling. Loads are controlled electronically by their magnetic system that allows low speed high power generation and create the feeling of climbing slopes of up to 18%. Natasha also commented that the absense of wheel slippage was noticeable – and she liked it.
The trainer is run by wirelessly connected software that comes for your PC (can also be configured for Mac), and with datascreen connection to your big screen tv with something like Apple TV.
Making full use of the Real Turbo Muin calls for choosing from the long list of features that includes things like ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity for a range of your devices plus full access and controls for Elite’s full suite of electronic & online training options accessed via their My Training app. This app allows you to control everything from your Ipad or Iphone (maybe strapped to the handlebars), starting from the basics of managing power, cadence, heart rate, speed, time and distance data… but that’s not all…
Elite also offers a huge database of real course videos called My REALVIDEO – some 60 officially created by Elite specifically for use with their trainers, but also a huge and growing bank of user-created rides (ie: film a ride with your iphone or other gps camera and go…). With more being added all the time, you’ll soon be able to ride almost any road in the world without leaving your house (sure makes training through the winter a whole lot easier).
The list of features goes on and on: with pre-programmed base training sessions, an easy to use Conconi Test to find your anerobic threshold, personalized training tests, online racing against users anywhere else in the world, creation of your own race course using Google Maps, access and use of other training videos in your library, the requisite amount of sharing your data to impress your friends and intimidate your enemies… That’s quite a list, and we’ll take a closer look as soon as we get one for test.
Pricing runs at US$1249 retail and expect them in shops by early – mid November. If you can’t wait, you can pre-order one from:
• USA: Pronet Cycling Phone: (800) 279-3793
• Canada: Cycles Marinoni Phone: (450) 471 7133
• See the Elite website
EASTON has been through some changes recently, with the wheel brand leaving the mothership to join primo mtb brand Raceface, headquartered in Vancouver. In a quickie sub-plot that shows just how hard to escape the cycling biz is & what can be achieved when you stick with something long enough, I used to work with the new Easton owner Chris Tutton years back at Rocky Mountain bicycles (good times…). The change of ownership also brings some new enthusiasm to the brand, who were on the cutting edge of carbon development and ‘nano-tech’ back when we reviewed the easton-built BMC SLC01 Pro Machine in 2006.
While nano-tech went the way of so much marketing jingo, it’s certain carbon technology has come a long way, to the point where full carbon wheels are no longer an exception or ‘concept’, but now the standard in the pro peloton, and we’re not too far away from there being a set in everyone’s garage.
Easton’s E100 carbon tubular wheels are their new flagship in the road category – usurping the long running EC90 series that you’ve probably ridden on at some point. Billed as ‘five years in development’, what I saw on the show floor at least looked like it will be worth the wait.
The wheels were launched officially at Eurobike: they’re tubulars only for now (but clinchers are coming), and the display set weighed in at 1030 grams – impressive. They’re designed and made by Easton 100%, and feature a number of Easton patents.
The rim’s ‘Fantom’ shapes were sculpted in the windtunnel and are 45mm deep, 24mm wide at the braking track. A special resin has been developed to advance braking in wet conditions (long the main complaint of carbon rims), and designed to work best with SwissStop’s defacto leader in wet braking pads – the Yellow model.
Easton has created the only tensionable carbon spoke that unlike some other carbon-spoked wheels, tensions at the nipple that threads into the rim bed. This disperses tension at the nipple hole better than a traditional nipple head pulling against the rim bed, and allows the spokes to be tensioned for an overall stiffer wheel.
Each spokes is one continuous length that runs from one side of the rim, through the hub where it bends slightly, then across to the opposite side of the rim. The spokes are bonded using Easton’s ‘ultrasonic welding process’ to a ring that fits onto the outer part of the hub, and this spider is actually one piece. Broken spokes require a replacement of the entire piece, but as part of Easton’s “100% serviceable” claim, it’s less costly than a new set of wheels.
The E100 hubs feature carbon bodies, wide outer bearing placements to reduce tension on the rolling bearings. Inside they use ceramic bearings, and six individually-sprung pawls use six-degree engagement so the hub will stand up to however many watts you’re cranking out.
Production is just getting rolling now, so it’ll be Spring before you can own a set, but I’ve got my name already on the review list, so stay tuned to for an actual ride report later.
Price will be US$3800 or $3.69 per gram… if you’re counting… Get more info at EastonCycling.com.